Think Before You Act

Maharaja Dashratha with son, Lord Rama “He that on the eve of beginning an action either relating to this world or the next, does not take into consideration the fact that actions entail consequences light or grave, disagreeable (or otherwise), is styled a child.” (King Dashratha speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 63)

Children act without thinking. This is a widely known fact. Youngsters aren’t entrusted with much responsibility since parents understand that children aren’t mature enough to handle important decision making. Children are the essence of innocence, usually very kind and sweet. Yet this innocence can get them into trouble if they aren’t properly looked after. For this reason, young kids require constant supervision from their elders.

This same principle holds true for adults to some degree, except that the supervising agents for adults aren’t parents, but rather the authoritative scriptures. Every action has a reaction. Most people understand this fact early on in their adult life. If we sleep too much, we will be tired for most of the day. If we stay up too late, we will have trouble getting up the next morning for work or school. If we overindulge in partying and consuming adult beverages, we will likely have a hang over the next day. These are some of the immediate consequences to our actions. These reactions can be easily identified. Yet somehow people manage to repeat the same mistakes over and over. The famous comedian Bill Cosby used to do a bit in his stand-up routine relating to co-workers who love to party on the weekend. The gist of the joke was that Bill Cosby knew people who would always be excited for the weekend. They couldn’t wait to get out of work and go out partying, having a carefree night. Yet the evening would almost always end in the same way. One person or another would end up getting drunk and spending the rest of the night hovering over the toilet, waiting to throw up. “Oh my God, I will never drink again! This is it. God, if I make it through this night, I promise not to ever drink alcohol again.” Though only part of a very funny comedic routine, such situations are a common occurrence. This is the nature of maya, God’s illusory energy. She makes us forget past experiences. She tells us that material sense gratification will make us happy.

We are all spirit souls at our core, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Somehow or other we have been forced to accept bodies in this material world. Life here is all about enjoyment, and to facilitate that desire, Krishna ordered maya to cast a spell over the material world.

Since we want to enjoy, God says “Go ahead. Have fun.” If it weren’t for maya, we would immediately recognize these repeating patterns of happiness and misery. The material world is a place full of dualities such as hot and cold, happiness and sadness, prosperity and poverty, etc. Aside from every action having a foreseeable reaction, there are also consequences that come later on in life and also in a future life. Since we are spirit souls, we are actually eternal. There is no birth or death for the spirit soul.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Lord Krishna Our gross material body is discarded at the time of death, at which point a new body is created based on our karma. Fruitive activity or work done for a desired material result is what constitutes karma. When learning of the concept of karma, most people naturally believe in it. Its effects are quite easy to see in many cases. Sometimes we’ll see someone who is expert at cheating people. They amass large sums of money, thinking that nothing bad will happen to them. Then all of a sudden, something really horrible happens to them and they lose all their money. They are left with nothing. This is all the result of karma. We are not the doers. We only think that we are.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Bg. 3.27)

I may have a very nice job and a beautiful wife, but I can’t get those things solely on my own. Everything is a result of karma, current and past.

Dashratha hunting deer Knowledge comes from experience. It is quite common for older people to think to themselves, “If I only knew then what I know now, I would have acted completely differently.” These were the sentiments of Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya, many thousands of years ago. One of the first kings on earth was Maharaja Ikshvaku, who was very pious and noble. From him descended a long line of great kings, all loved and respected. Dashratha was one of them. During those times, the governments were all run by kshatriyas, men of the warrior class. Living in the mode of passion, it was quite common for them to go hunting in the woods as a way to practice their defensive skills. Violence is never good, but sometimes it is sanctioned in certain cases. The duty of a king is to provide protection to his subjects, thus he needs a way to practice his defensive skills. For this reason, kings were allowed to go hunting in the woods for deer. On one such hunting excursion, Dashratha accidentally shot and killed a young brahmana boy with one of his arrows. The boy’s parents were quite grief stricken at the news and resolved to give up their bodies as a result. They cursed Dashratha to suffer the same fate in the future, i.e. death due to separation from his most beloved son.

All of this occurred before the king was married. Later on, he would be blessed with four sons, the eldest of whom was named Rama, an incarnation of Krishna. Dashratha loved Rama the most, for he had hoped and prayed for such a son. Rama was in line to succeed Dashratha, but due to boons promised to Queen Kaikeyi, Dashratha was forced to exile Rama from the kingdom for fourteen years. In the above referenced statement, Dashratha is bewailing his plight. He is explaining to Kausalya, Rama’s mother, that this entire course of events was actually due to his past misdeed of killing the brahmana boy.

Dashratha and family The lesson given by Dashratha is that we shouldn’t waste our life on meaningless activities. Every action has a consequence, even if we don’t think so. People living a sinful life through meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex will undoubtedly have to suffer the consequences in the future, the most serious of which is the repetition of birth, old age, disease, and death. Sinful life actually means any activity which causes one to be bound to the cycle of birth and death. This human form of life is meant for a higher purpose.

If we act merely for sense gratification, not thinking of the consequences, we are acting just like children. A sober person will ponder the meaning of life and ask what happens to the body after death. athato brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for enquiring about Brahman, or God.” That is the message of the Vedanta-sutra.

We should begin to take the appropriate steps towards self-realization by studying the authoritative scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. The aim of human life is to become God conscious, to always think of the Lord so that we can return to Him after this life.

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bg. 4.9)

Acting in concert with God’s interests means acting like an adult.

Categories: karma

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